Adding positive reinforcement in justice settings: Acceptability and feasibility

Danielle S. Rudes, Faye S. Taxman, Shannon Portillo, Amy Murphy, Anne Rhodes, Maxine Stitzer, Peter F. Luongo, Peter D. Friedmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although contingency management (CM) approaches are among the most promising methods for initiating drug abstinence (S. T. Higgins, S. M. Alessi, & R. L. Dantona, 2002; S. T. Higgins, S. H. Heil, & J. P. Lussier, 2004), adoption and implementation of CM protocols into treatment programs are both challenging and infrequent. In criminal justice agencies, where roughly 70% of clients report substance abuse issues (F. S. Taxman, K. L. Cropsey, D. W. Young, & H. Wexler, 2007), CM interventions are virtually nonexistent. The Justice Steps (JSTEPS) study uses a longitudinal, mixed-method design to examine the implementation of a CM-based protocol in five justice settings. This article presents qualitative data collected during Phase 1 of the JSTEPS project regarding the acceptability and feasibility of CM in these justice settings. The study finds a level of acceptability (find CM tolerable) and feasibility (find CM suitable) within justice agencies, but with some challenges. These challenges are reflected in the following: (a) incorporating too many desired target behaviors into CM models; (b) facing intraorganizational challenges when designing CM systems; and (c) emphasizing sanctions over rewards despite the evidence-base for positive reinforcers. These findings have implications for advancing the dissemination, adoption, and implementation of evidence-based treatments (and CM in particular) in criminal justice settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)260-270
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2012


  • Acceptability and feasibility
  • Contingency management
  • Criminal justice
  • Drug abstinence and treatment
  • Rewards/incentives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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